Philippine ethnic architecture

Philippine ethnic architecture

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Ethnic Architecture

- Ethnic culture lies on Phil. Architecture, an amalgam on Anglo-Saxon, Latin, Indian, Chinese, Japanese & other foreign influences with sensibility of Pre-Hispanic, Pre-Western & Southeast Asian. Its Ethos’s is linked with elements and creatures. It draws inspiration from environment. It also responds to man’s communal and social needs.

General Characteristics

- Ethnic Structures are made of natural materials such as wood, vegetations & sometimes molds. The favorite material is bamboo, which is used for doors, flooring siding, roofing & many others.

It is informal and usually designed by the owner itself and executed with manpower provided by his family and the community. Often influenced first by tradition, second by chance.

Most ethnic houses conform to a general pattern: have steep thatched roofs to facilitate drainage; elevated on posts or stilts and have slanted flooring. The result is generally a comfortable and functional, yet durable and structurally stable.

Decorations are aesthetics and socio-politico-religious factors. Pig skulls and carabao horns for instance in Ifugao to indicate social position.

It is at modest proportions as it is used essentially as a shelter from the elements and as a place to cook, eat and sleep. At other times, the house doubles as a social and cultural center. It becomes the setting for weddings, wakes, death anniversaries, religious rites and other life-cycle celebrations.

Ethnic architecture can be classified using four different considerations:
     1. According to structural methods used
     2. According to use or function
     3. According to historical period
     4. According to cultural groups or people

Types of Structures in History

- Ethnic architecture has evolved in response to changes in time and history.

Cave dwellings were perhaps the earliest shelters in the Philippines. The next stage of evolution of ethnic architecture was marked by the appearance of the “lean-to”, the first attempt at building. The practice of kaingin gave rise to a more settled life in a real house. But durability was not a major concern. The introduction of wet rice agriculture brought about a truly settled life and a need for a more permanent dwelling. The bahay kubo, the dwelling of the lowland, christianized populace had already been established even before the Spaniards came.

Because of different environments, upland and lowland houses developed interesting contrasts. Lowland houses have more open, airy interiors, while upland ones are more tightly enclosed.

Special types of houses developed in various parts of the Philippines. In Sulu archipelago, houses were built over water.

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Areas regularly ravaged by typhoons such as Batanes, make use of sturdy, firmly fastened limestone walled dwelling with meter thick grass roofs to protect their inhabitants.

Ethnic Houses

- Ethnic architecture is influenced chiefly by their ways of life, environment and the organizations in the society of the different cultural communities.

The most common of the northern ethnic houses is the Igorot’s mountain house, which is divided into 2 styles of architecture. They are the northern and southern strain. In the south, toroganis and mosques are some of the Mindanaoan structures.


- Whether high up on a tree, high above the raging waters, or close to the solid ground, the ethnic homes of the Philippines, whether from Luzon, Visayas or Mindanao has lived on. Through the centuries, it has gone through numerous adaptations, brought on by conquistadors, western influences, history, necessities, and the fast pace of time. But its underlying philosophy --- symbiosis with the environment and sensitivity to the needs of its dwellers and the larger community --- has endured in its essential and complicated form, and has much to contribute in our present search for architecture that will express the true personality, attitude and taste of Filipinos.

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